Spice Ninja's Blog

Healthy Indian fusion food made easy.

Semi-ripened Papaya with Cocount July 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 9:43 am
Tags: , , ,

Papaya is such a pretty fruit. Makes me wish that eating ripe papaya didn’t make me want to kill myself. However, it does come with a plethora of health benefits, so I spent some time thinking about ways in which I could eat the stuff without my tongue wanting to jump ship.

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of using raw papaya in a savoury dish for some time now. Also, I just got a new tabletop coconut grater, so this seemed like the perfect time to give it a shot.

I’ve tried this dish with completely raw (firm and green flesh) and it wasn’t quite right, so I tried semi-ripened papaya and it worked out beautifully. Plus with all the lovely pale yellow/pink colors, this is such a pretty dish.

Ingredients

  1. 1 semi-ripened papaya, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
  2. 4 tbsp freshly grated coconut
  3. Salt and pepper to taste
  4. 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
  5. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  6. 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  7. 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  8. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  9. 7-8 curry leaves (more if you’re using dried)

Method:

  1. Heat the oil, throw in the mustard seeds.
  2. When the mustard seeds are sputtering, throw in the papaya and stir till all chunks are coated.
  3. Add coconut, salt, pepper and spices and cook till the chunks are tender (but not mushy) – takes about 10 minutes depending on the ripeness of the flesh.
  4. Add the curry leaves at the last minute, cook till everything’s blended (about a minute) and serve with steamed rice.

Note:

This is a fairly dry dish, so don’t leave more than the barest minimum of moisture in it when you are done cooking. The coconut will absorb a little moisture after you’re done, but you can also always rehydrate when you re-heat.

 

Seafood Stew April 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 2:44 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I had the boy’s parents over for lunch today. Lovely people, but not necessarily the biggest lovers of spice/heat in food. Plus they were about to have a long drive back to Kingston (Ontario, not Jamaica), so didn’t want to make them something too heavy. Also, I wanted to use them as guinea pigs for this seafood stew – a version of which I had at a lovely Italian restaurant in my neighbourhood. So here goes:

Seafood stew (I stole this picture from the internets until I upload one myself)

Ingredients

  1. 1/2-1 lb raw shrimp, calamari and the fish (skinless/ boneless is best) of your choice. **If you can, get the bones/ head of the fish from your fishmonger too – you can throw ‘em in to the stew as it’s cooking for a nice fish stock alternative, and take ‘em out before you add the ‘fer real seafood for serving. Also, whitefish like grouper, etc are best, not something like catfish or salmon.
  2. 1 lb fresh, cleaned mussels (optional)
  3. 1 large onion (I use red) – finely chopped
  4. 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  5. 3-4 stalks celery – finely chopped
  6. 6-7 cloves of garlic (you heard me) – finely diced/minced
  7. 7-8 medium, ripe tomatoes (or the canned equivalent)
  8. 900 ml (approx) low-sodium chicken stock (or half chicken/half seafood stock)
  9. 1/3 cup dry white wine
  10. 1 tbsp tomato puree
  11. Red chilli flakes to taste
  12. Pinch of saffron (optional)
  13. 2 bay leaves
  14. 1/2 tsp fennel seeds OR half a fresh fennel bulb, finely chopped
  15. 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme (on the stalk)
  16. 1/4 tsp cumin
  17. Salt/ Pepper to taste
  18. Pinch of sugar (if needed)
  19. Rough chopped cilantro – half handful
  20. Rough chopped basil – half handful
  21. Slurry of 1 tsp all purpose flour and 2-3 tsp water (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a nice, big stew pot. Add the onions, celery, fennel and half the garlic and reduce the heat to about medium. Let it cook down, sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt to help dehydrate them faster if you want.
  2. When the mixture is browning nicely and just starting to stick to the bottom, add the white wine, and let it deglaze the base of the pot.
  3. Add the tomatoes, puree, salt, pepper, cumin, chilli flakes, sugar, bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Increase the heat for a few minutes, let the tomatoes start to break down.
  4. When the tomatoes have softened, add the stock (and the fish heads/ bones if you have ‘em).
  5. Let everything cook on a low simmer – uncovered - till the flavours taste nice and round. Adjust salt, sweetness, heat, etc., at this point. Don’t worry if you’ve oversalted, remember the seafood still has to go in. Simmer at least 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s too thin/ watery, you can add the flour slurry at this point.
  6. Just before you’re about to serve, bring the stew back up to the boil, remove the fish heads, etc if you’ve left ‘em in, remove the bay leaves and thyme stalks (if any). Add in the saffron and seafood, let everything cook for a few (ie: 5-6 ) minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR SEAFOOD OR GOD WILL KILL A PUPPY.
  7. Turn off the heat, throw in the cilantro and basil, stir in and serve with some crusty bread.

Serves 6

 

Easy Peasy Chicken Tikkas March 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 11:27 pm

So I’m on a diet. Now, I’ve never lasted longer than about 4 hours on a diet, so I’m not committing to longevity. Either way, one is forced to innovate.

I like chicken. Dark meat specifically. I think breast meat is boring and too dense and kind of dry, but since I’m trying to be good, I picked up some boneless/skinless chicken breasts and brought ‘em home. And then this happened.

Note: I had this dream about marinating chicken. I kid you not, and yes, I am that lame. But, in the dream I scolded myself (because I’m masochistic like that) about adding salt to a marinade, since salt, by definition extracts water from meat. Um, I think. Anyway, I figured that chicken breasts are dry enough as it is, so why risk it. For thigh meat (which I Strongly recommend), add the salt in when you marinate.


Chicken Tikkas a la Stupid Diet

Prep time: 2+ hours for marinating, 15 mins to prepare

Ingredients

  1. 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  2. 4-5 tablespoons plain yogurt (or enough to immerse the chicken in)
  3. 1/2 tsp ginger/garlic paste (or equivalent freshly minced)
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  6. 1/4 tsp red chilli (or to taste)
  7. A teensy bit of green chilli paste (optional)
  8. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  9. 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  10. 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  11. A pinch of kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  12. Pinch of black pepper
  13. 1 tsp of oil
  14. 1 tsp of vinegar (or less, to taste)

Method

  1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch -ish strips, put into a tupperware container
  2. Add yogurt, spices, oil, vinegar and fenugreek leaves.
  3. Marinate for a minimum of 2 hours (you need the acids in the yogurt, vinegar, etc to break down the proteins – read: tenderize – the chicken)
  4. When sufficiently marinated, add salt to the marinade/chicken
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 475F (top burner) and soak some wooden skewers
  6. Skewer the chicken, grill for 10 mins on one side, turn over the another 3-5 on the other side
  7. Take out, let them rest for about 10 minutes. Take off skewers and serve with some chilli/yogurt chutney. Or ketchup.
 

Not your mama’s quinoa March 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 3:34 pm

I’ve been introduced to quinoa fairly recently. Loaded with proteins, amino acids and all kinds of good stuff, it’s almost cool enough just on its own, but the fact that it comes from the ‘Goosefoot’ family made it irresistable to me. Plus it cooks fast and is a super easy weekday meal dish.

I’ve actually done this tomato base with eggs (remember to dry the water out first), semolina, you could probably also use barley or couscous. But couscous bugs me.

Spiced Quinoa Meal

Spiced Quinoa Meal in Romaine Leaves

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup of quinoa
  2. 2- 2.5 cups of very hot/ boiling water
  3. 1 small- medium sized tomato, ripe
  4. 1/2 a medium onion
  5. A few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  6. 1/4 tsp green chilli paste (or red chilli powder) – adjust to taste
  7. 1/4 tsp (or less) whole roasted cumin seeds
  8. 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  9. 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
  10. Salt and Pepper to taste
  11. 1/4 tsp ginger and garlic paste (or the equivalent finely minced)
  12. 4-5 fresh curry leaves (optional)
  13. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  14. Some Romaine lettuce leaves to serve in
  15. Plain, fresh yogurt to serve on the side (optional)

Method:

  1. Warm up the oil in a flat bottom, non-stick pan (wide and with a lid is best)
  2. Add cumin seeds, when they start to sputter, add the onions and ginger garlic paste, brown on medium heat.
  3. When onions are softened and have some color, add the tomatoes and all the spices.
  4. Cook for 5-6 minutes until tomatoes are softened and spices smell roasted. Add water if it’s too dry.
  5. Add curry leaves and cilantro, mix and increase heat to max.
  6. Add the quinoa, mix well with the tomato base and leave on the heat for about a minute, turning over to avoid burning.
  7. Add the hot water, let the whole thing come to a boil, turn the heat off and leave for 5-8 minutes to steam.
  8. Open, fluff with a fork and serve with crisp romaine leaves and yogurt.

Serves two as a full meal.

 

On Fenugreek March 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 7:14 pm

Yes, it’s a funny word. It’s also a green vegetable when fresh, a spice (seeds) and an herb (dried). You can sorta think of it as a poor man’s spinach – which is sometimes what it replaces in Indian food.

You can get it real easy like in grocery stores, but usually in the ethnic section, and usually only in frozen, dried or seed forms. The seeds, in fact, are interesting. They are known to help lactating women increase breast milk and… this is cool – it makes your skin take on like a maple syrupy smell for some reason. Ours is not to reason why, but if you were to sneak some into the food of your office-mate with the rather pungent B.O., might not be so bad.

The leaves are used much in the same way you’d use just the leaves and tender stalks of cilantro or mint plants. If you find fresh fenugreek (methi in Hindi), it’ll probably be in an Indian food store, or a cool supermarket. If it’s frozen, it’ll be in cubes, and you can just plonk one into your food. Great for steamed rice, or lentils. Chock-full of nutrients too.

Some quick facts (if you’re interested, if not, scroll past)

  • 100 gms of fenugreek leaves have about 49 calories
  • Fenugreek leaves are enriched with minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron.
  • Fresh leaves are made of 3 to 5 % protein.
  • Not only are they high in dietary fiber, but the leaves are alsoenriched with Vitamin C. The Vitamin K from fenugreek greens are comparable to spinach
  • Dried methi is called ‘Kasuri methi’ and I’ve seen it in loads of stores. Unlike spices like thyme and basil and what not, don’t use the old ‘3 times what you’d add in fresh’ rule, a little of this stuff goes a long way for flavour.

More nutrition information is here.

What people use it for:

Methi is like the little plant that could. People use the leaves (dry or fresh or some combination) in everything from dough for rotis to lentil soups (dal), as a green vegetable, as the token green vegetable in a meat dish (chuck in at the end), ad infinitum.

Point to note though, is that methi is somewhat bitter on its own (like rapini). Is useful sometimes when inserting in large quantities to cut some of the bitterness with stock, or even sugar. With Indian foods, it’s easy enough, with all the spices one puts into the dish. Some people (myself included), like the slight bitterness, so I don’t often bother. Another thing people do is make it as a side dish with grated carrot. But that’s kinda boring.

Fenugreek leaves and seeds

To the recipe! – Methi Chicken

I love this dish. It happened by accident, I was trying to rescue a curry and teach someone how to cook Indian food and then I got impatient and so this happy, hot mess of awesome ensued. Picking the leaves off the stalks takes time, but it’s completely worth it.

Here’s what you do.

Ingredients:

  1. About 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into about 1 inch chunks (so they cook fast)
  2. One bunch (or two cubes) of methi leaves, washed but not chopped
  3. One small/ 1/2 a medium sized onion, julienned.
  4. 6-8 curry leaves (more if you’re using dried)
  5. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds whole
  6. 1 dried red chilli (whole but broken up) or a pinch of dry red chilli flakes
  7. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  8. 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  9. 1/2 tsp haldi (tumeric) powder
  10. 1/2-1 tsp green chili paste (or 1/2 tsp red chilli powder) – or to taste
  11. 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  12. Salt to taste
  13. 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  14. 1/2 tsp ginger/garlic paste
  15. Pinch of Asafoetida powder (optional)
  16. Pinch or two of sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a fairly wide bottomed pan (doesn’t need a lid).
  2. Sputter the mustard seeds briefly when the oil heats up. Add the dried chilli flakes/ whole chillies and the asafoetida.
  3. Add the onions and the ginger garlic, fry till onion gets some color.
  4. Increase the heat.
  5. Add chicken chunks. Add spices immediately, and stir well. Let the chicken sizzle up, let any water evaporate and let it get some color. At 3/4ths heat – it should cook very quickly. Don’t increase the heat to maximum – you want the spices to roast, not burn.
  6. Add a few tablespoons of water if required. This is a fairly dry dish. Add optional pinch of sugar if you want.
  7. Once the chicken is pretty much cooked (this should take less than 10-12 minutes), add the curry leaves and methi. Once the methi is wilted (or defrosted since I’m lazy and throw frozen methi in without thawing), it’s done.
  8. Garnish with something green (not that you need to), and eat with some fresh steamed rice and plain yogurt.

PS: You can also get a few bunches of fresh methi at a time and steam/freeze what you don’t’ use. I tried that using a bamboo steamer, about 6-7 minutes on medium heat and then plopped it into a ziplock bag. Worked just fine, and the color remained vibrant.

 

Peri-Peri Fried Rice March 2, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday I was in a lot of pain. The kind where you lie in the floor and wonder when you will go from ‘Owner’ to ‘Catfood’ in the large, amber eyes of your familiar.

Luckily for me, I had help. And help brought food. Portuguese chicken in particular. Having the itch to do SOMETHING kitchen-esque to help, and being more or less unable to move my left side, I decided to reheat some Basmati rice, and then to make it interesting, I decided to eschew the microwave. Hence, peri-peri egg fried rice.

Ingredients:

  1. 2-3 cups of cooked (preferably cold) rice
  2. 4-5 tbsp chicken or beef stock (or water)
  3. 1/4 cup worth (eyeball it) of thinly sliced onions
  4. 1 clove thinly sliced garlic
  5. 1/4 tsp thinly sliced ginger root
  6. Pinch of Salt (optional)
  7. Pinch of Pepper (not optional)
  8. 2-3 tbsp medium (or hot) peri-peri sauce
  9. 1 egg, beaten. (I had some egg whites left over from the Great Bearnaise Sauce Debacle of  last Saturday)
  10. Any vegetables you might have on hand. I didn’t have any, so whatever.
  11. Chopped scallions and coriander for garnish and crunch
  12. 1 tbsp olive oil (or any oil)

Method:

  1. Sautee onions, ginger and garlic until nice and golden on medium heat. Remember, garlic burns mighty quick.
  2. Add the stock and peri-peri sauce, stir and let it heat up.
  3. Throw in cold rice, mix to coat with oil and liquid.
  4. Throw in the vegetables, salt/pepper.
  5. Add the egg, stir to break up any eggy lumps. You can even cover the pan for a minute to let the egg cook faster and the rice to absorb some moisture.
  6. When the egg is cooked, add the scallions and coriander and serve.

This makes a pretty good side to chicken or vegetables, or even as a quick weeknight dinner on its own.

 

Quickie recipe – Potatoes with cumin February 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — fortheloveofpie @ 1:38 pm

Nothing is more quintessential to Indian food than the humble potato. Vegetarians abound, and for a lot of people, potatoes are one of most affordable, filling entrees one can provide.

Cumin is great for the system. Not only does it taste divine, and is ubiquitous in several cuisines in North and South America, Africa and Asia, but it’s great for digestion. You’ll find that many commonly used spices are included (especially in Indian cooking) not just for the taste, but what they do for your system.

Today for lunch, I’m having ‘Jeera Aloo’ or potatoes with cumin with some daal (yellow lentils boiled and then tempered with flavoured oil) and a whole wheat roti. It tastes good and the potatoes take like, no time at all to make.  And, I tell you true, some days there’s nothing like a dinner of some curried potatoes with some flatbread or rice. So here’s the recipe.

Jeera Aloo (or Potatoes with cumin)

Ingredients:

  1. One small to medium sized red (or any color really) onion – julienned
  2. 2-3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped to 1/3″ sized chunks (you can have larger chunks if you pre-cook the potatoes, but I can’t be bothered)
  3. 1 tsp whole cumin seeds (roasted of course)
  4. 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  5. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  6. 1/2 tsp haldi (tumeric) powder
  7. A dash of garam masala (optional)
  8. 1/2 tsp (or to taste) chilli powder (or 1/2 tsp green chilli paste or any spicy thing you like)
  9. 1 small clove of garlic sliced thin (optional)
  10. 5-6 curry leaves (if using dried, use more. These are optional since they’re hard to come by, but do make a huge difference to the taste)
  11. Salt to taste
  12. A few sprigs of fresh chopped coriander for garnish

Method:

  1. Heat the oil and add the cumin seeds.
  2. When the cumin seeds start to sputter, add the onion and fry till they’re a light brown.
  3. Add the garlic, and the potatoes. Fry for about 30 seconds till potatoes are well coated.
  4. Add the salt, chilli, tumeric, cumin powder. Fry for another minute. Try not to sneeze from the roasting spices.
  5. Add some water and let the potatoes cook on a medium flame until just about done.
  6. Add more water if necessary (you want a wee bit of sauce in this, but not much), throw in the curry leaves, let cook another couple of minutes.
  7. Garnish with coriander.
 

 
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